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Invasion of Czechoslovakia
Jacek Kuroń Social activist
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I had a very powerful experience in that prison, I was in a room and I was reading some files. It was the summer of '68, August, of course, when suddenly from somewhere I heard a radio. And I heard that troops from the Warsaw Pact countries were invading Czechoslovakia. It was a terrible feeling. Earlier, we'd tensely scoured the newspapers in prison. There was so much tension: will this go any further? Will it work? Won't it? There was a glimmer of hope but everyone felt how fragile it was. Even before this, when we were conducting the war of the flyers, when we knew that we were heading for a confrontation, we would often wonder what road we were taking, whether it was the one the Czechs had taken or the Spanish? The Czechs had held a student demonstration and the authorities had given in so there was immediate progress. In the case of the Spanish model, you go to the committees, you set up committees and gradually build up a broad front. We knew, too, that our authorities weren't inclined to give in, that the atmosphere was quite different so the Czech model wouldn't work although the Czechs were undoubtedly important to us, and I think that for all those students it was much, much more important because there was hope there that the authorities might give in since they'd given in there - that hope was very strong. But suddenly, they invaded. And this awful sense of impotence, helplessness because we'd also sent Polish troops, they'd also invaded and I had the feeling there would be no response. That evening, I heard some boy calling out in the night, 'Troops out of Czechoslovakia!' I didn't even reply. It made me feel terribly ashamed. I didn't reply well, because... it would have been another voice. I felt what was needed here was a voice, and I didn't believe there would be one. So when after some time, I can't say how long, Gienek Smolar spoke up from the cell next to mine, saying they'd been handing out flyers about this and he was in prison now on account of the Czech issue, I felt a bit more relieved, although I was saddened at the same time to hear that my friends were once again in prison.

Takie silne niesłychanie przeżycie w tym więzieniu to był... byłem wtedy w pokoju. Czytałem akta. To było lato sześćdziesiątego ósmego roku, sierpień oczywiście, i nagle, gdzieś, skądś doszło mnie radio. I usłyszałem, że wojska państw Układu Warszawskiego wkraczają do Czechosłowacji – straszne uczucie. Przedtem z taką uwagą, z takim napięciem śledziliśmy te gazety w więzieniu. Z takim niesłychanym napięciem, czy potoczy się to coś dalej? Wyjdzie? Nie wyjdzie? Taka świtała nadzieja i czuło się jak ona jest krucha. Jeszcze przedtem, jak już się – jak już w tym okresie wojny ulotkowej, kiedy wiedzieliśmy, że idziemy do zwarcia, tośmy często mówili o jaką drogę tu chodzi, czy o czeską, czy o hiszpańską. Czeską no to ta demonstracja studencka, której władze ustąpiły i takie od razu wejście gdzieś do przodu. Czy o hiszpańską, znaczy idzie się do Komitetów, zakłada się Komitety i powoli buduje się szeroki front. No i wiedzieliśmy, że nasze władze nie są skłonne do ustępstw, że to jest inny klimat zupełnie, więc czeska tu nie wyjdzie, ale niewątpliwie to Czechy miały dla nas znaczenie, ja myślę że dla rzesz studentów o wiele, wiele większe, że tam po prostu taka nadzieja, że władze ustąpią, skoro tam ustąpiły – była silna. No i tu nagle wjechali. I takie straszne poczucie bezsilności, bezradności, bo przecież my też wojska polskie też tam wjeżdżają i miałem takie poczucie, że nie będzie głosu. Tego wieczoru usłyszałem, jakiś chłopak w nocy zawołał przez okno ktoś: "Precz z agresją na Czechosłowację!" Nawet mu nie odpowiedziałem, też miałem poczucie wstydu z tego powodu. Nie odpowiedziałem, no bo... głos jeszcze jeden. Czułem, że tu potrzebny jest głos. I nie wierzyłem, że on będzie. Więc kiedy, trudno mi powiedzieć w jaki czas potem, nagle z sąsiedniej celi odezwał się Gienek Smolar, który powiedział, że rzucali ulotki w tej sprawie i siedzi w sprawie czeskiej, to zrobiło mi się lżej na duszy. Choć zarazem przykro, bo usłyszałem, że znowu siedzą moi przyjaciele.

The late Polish activist, Jacek Kuroń (1934-2004), had an influential but turbulent political career, helping transform the political landscape of Poland. He was expelled from the communist party, arrested and incarcerated. He was also instrumental in setting up the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR) and later became a Minister of Labour and Social Policy.

Listeners: Marcel Łoziński Jacek Petrycki

Film director Marcel Łoziński was born in Paris in 1940. He graduated from the Film Directing Department of the National School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź in 1971. In 1994, he was nominated for an American Academy Award and a European Film Academy Award for the documentary, 89 mm from Europe. Since 1995, he has been a member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science awarding Oscars. He lectured at the FEMIS film school and the School of Polish Culture of Warsaw University. He ran documentary film workshops in Marseilles. Marcel Łoziński currently lectures at Andrzej Wajda’s Master School for Film Directors. He also runs the Dragon Forum, a European documentary film workshop.

Cinematographer Jacek Petrycki was born in Poznań, Poland in 1948. He has worked extensively in Poland and throughout the world. His credits include, for Agniezka Holland, Provincial Actors (1979), Europe, Europe (1990), Shot in the Heart (2001) and Julie Walking Home (2002), for Krysztof Kieslowski numerous short films including Camera Buff (1980) and No End (1985). Other credits include Journey to the Sun (1998), directed by Jesim Ustaoglu, which won the Golden Camera 300 award at the International Film Camera Festival, Shooters (2000) and The Valley (1999), both directed by Dan Reed, Unforgiving (1993) and Betrayed (1995) by Clive Gordon both of which won the BAFTA for best factual photography. Jacek Petrycki is also a teacher and a filmmaker.

Tags: Warsaw Pact, Czechoslovakia, Eugeniusz Smolar

Duration: 2 minutes, 20 seconds

Date story recorded: 1987

Date story went live: 12 June 2008